Pregnancy Week by Week (Weeks 21-24)

Week 21

You
You are clearly pregnant now, with the top of your womb reaching your belly button. Sometimes, midwives check your baby’s growth by measuring the distance from pubic bone to the top of the womb. The measurement should be approximately 1cm for each week of pregnancy.

Your baby
Your baby may well be sucking his thumb or hand as he practises one of the key reflexes for his survival. Some babies are born with a little blister on their hands where they have been sucking.

The best-laid plans
It’s worth thinking early about your birth plan, as talking to your midwife and reading up on labour will help you know what might be right for you. So check out information about:
• Pain relief
• Interventions such as induction, episiotomies and forceps
• Positions that might help labour
• Waterbirth
• The process of labour

Once you have lots of information, start thinking about how you would like your labour to go.

Switching partners
On your birth plan, you can also say who your birth partner will be. If your partner would prefer not to be at the birth, another option is hiring a doula – an experienced birth attendant.

ONE MUM SAYS… ‘Once the 20-week scan was over, and I knew my baby was healthy, I bought just one tiny outfit – a cute little cardi. I couldn’t believe it was so tiny – and that in another 20 weeks, my baby would be wearing it.’

Week 22

You
The lower part of your womb really stretches over the next weeks, sometimes leading to sharp twinges. The stretching of the skin on your bump can make you feel itchy – but severe itching all over must be checked as it can indicate serious liver problems. If you’re prone to stretchmarks (if your mum had them, chance are you will too), slather yourself with body lotion every night to improve your skin’s elasticity.

Your baby
Tiny buds that will grow into baby and adult teeth are forming deep in the jaw. But you probably won’t see that first pearly white emerge until your baby is six months old.

Drink up
Make sure you don’t get dehydrated because the extra blood your body is producing needs lots of water. Keep a bottle handy and sip throughout the day – even if you think you’re constantly rushing to the loo.

Childcare choices
Leave yourself lots of time to sort childcare before returning to work. It’s crucial you make the right choice if you’re going to feel relaxed leaving you baby with someone else. Options include:
• Daycare nurseries
• Childminders
• Nannies
• Friends or relatives

Week 23

You
Some mums may already start to leak colostrum from their nipples. This is the milk your body will make for your baby for the first few days of life. It is very rich, yellowy in colour and packed with antibodies to fight infection.

Your baby
With your baby now very active, and his movements growing more vigorous, you may notice that he has regular times for rest and play.

Fancy footwork
Still in high heels? It’s best to ditch them in favour of flats – or at least chunky soles if you want a bit of height. Wearing heels can make backache worse as they affect your posture. Plus, with the change in your centre of gravity affecting your balance, it’s not unknown for pregnant women to tumble off their heels!

Pelvic floor plan
Start doing pelvic floor exercises – see our feature on fitness and pregnancy. Pregnancy and birth can weaken these muscles and make you prone to stress incontinence – peeing when you laugh or sneeze. Basically, these exercises involve tightening and releasing the muscles around your bottom and vagina, as if trying to stop yourself peeing. If you do them regularly throughout pregnancy and after the birth you’re likely to suffer fewer problems.

MOTHERCARE TIP If you are leaking a little colostrum, simply buy a pack of breast pads and slip them inside your bra to stop embarrassing damp patches. You can choose either disposables, or ones that you wash and re-use.

Week 24

You
Psychologically, you can feel hyper-sensitive during pregnancy – even in this relatively stable trimester. Feeling your baby move makes everything so real, that watching a weepy film or even the news can have you crying buckets.

Your baby
Your baby (who can now feel pain) is practising breathing, gulping in the amniotic fluid. This can cause hiccups, which you’ll feel as rhythmical twitches inside your bump. If born now, your baby would stand a chance of survival (though premature babies often have long-term problems).

Born too soon
A baby born this early face huge difficulties. His lungs are not mature, and he will probably be put on a ventilator as he won’t be able to breathe alone. He will, of course, be rushed to the special care baby unit, where he will spend several months. If your baby is premature, you’ll need lots of support as much of your time will be spent by his cotside. But it has been proved that touch from the mother (including kangaroo care, where a premature baby has skin-to-skin contact inside the mum’s clothing) greatly improves the baby’s chance of thriving.

Early baby clothes
Newborn clothes swamp premmies. But Mothercare’s range of early baby clothes are specially designed for premature babies. Not only are they small, they also:
• Have no scratchy seams or labels.
• Have fastenings made from soft Velcro, rather than poppers, which show up on x-rays.
• Are made from supersoft cotton.

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